I forgot to mention one of the nicest things about Riley’s age right now: he can be threatened. Perhaps you’re not into threatening small children, and to that I say, HAVE YOU TRIED IT? Because it is surprisingly satisfying! Go ahead, indulge your inner bully and take advantage of one of the few times in life you can completely control another human being’s happiness. DANCE FOR ME MONKEY-CHILD MOO HOO HA HA HAAAA.

In all seriousness I have no qualms resorting to the Dire Threat when necessary because the boy does not LISTEN. I can say “I need you to pick up your toys” six hundred and fifty times in a row and it’s like my voice has morphed into the Peanuts trumpet—mwaa waaa mwa wa wa mwaaaaaa—but tack on a “. . . or you don’t get to watch Curious George tonight” and hot damn, suddenly we’ve got some forward momentum.

Once we were at a playdate and Riley had been behaving like a particularly sub-standard citizen for nearly an hour straight, one meltdown after another, and I had run through my entire bag of parenting-book-advice tricks and was at a loss for what to do other than start combing his hair looking for the 666 tattooed on his scalp. Finally I hunkered down, grasped his shoulders, pulled him close, and hissed in his ear that if he didn’t start acting better I was going to take his beloved blankie and throw it out the window of the car on our way home. Call it cruel, but he shaped right up after that.

The 1-2-3 method is surprisingly useful, too, when he’s doing something obnoxious like grabbing for a pen I’ve just told him he cannot have. Sometimes just a glare combined with an ominous “ONE . . .” does the trick, but Riley often likes to live dangerously and wait until the death-pause that comes after “TWO—” before springing into action.

I don’t really know what happens after “THREE”. It’s like Room 101 in 1984.

Oh, and you know what else is awesome about a preschool-aged kid as opposed to, say, a 14-month-old? When they ignore your repeated warnings about whining or taking their brother’s toys or jumping on the couch or whatever it is, you can send them to their bedroom. I like to bust about the full name for that one: “Riley William S.! To your room this instant!” and off he goes at top speed, wahmbulancing his way down the hall and slamming his door before throwing himself on his bed to sulk. After a few minutes, he’s usually ready to come back out and join society; it’s like a system restart on whatever fucked-up kernel panic we’ve gotten ourselves into.

(Sadly, none of these methods are useful for babies, and it’s really too bad because there are at least twenty times per day when I would dearly love to send Dylan to his room. Or hover over his furious fishflopping body and say, “ONE . . .” and have something happen other than a mule-kick to the gut. Instead, it’s all about distraction and redirection, and while that’s often effective it’s slightly less satisfying to deal with a screaming devilspawn child by chirping, “Oh LOOK! A spatula! Do you want to play with a spatula?”)

Riley’s favorite question lately is “But why?” and I often find myself saying, “Because I say so.” I don’t really care if this is an unadvised course of action or not, sometimes that is the fucking sum and substance of the answer, as Al Swearengen might say. Someone recently told me how their friend’s kid—a kindergardener, I think—requires a reasonable explanation before she will do something she’s asked to do, and I was thinking, SERIOUSLY? THEIR PARENTS PLAY ALONG WITH THAT? Because I can only imagine what sort of rabbit hole you would get yourself into after a while. It would be like that Louis CK routine: “Well because some things ARE, and some things are NOT! Things that are NOT can’t BE, and—” Sure, I might explain to Riley that he needs to wear a coat because it’s cold, but if he continues to protest, well by god MY VOICE IS THE LAW.

I’m sure this is one of the brief stages in parenthood where I can actually get all Samuel Jackson on my kid’s ass if need be, because soon enough he’ll be all, “Uccccch. WHATEVER, Mom.” And I’ll be like, “one . . . ?”

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
75 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
kirida
15 years ago

I always answer “why” or “what’s this” questions with inane answers because I know my kid isn’t interested in what I have to say, he just loves the call and response. So I mostly just say, “Semper Fi,” or “Robots!” and he nods like he totally gets what I’m saying.

JennB
JennB
15 years ago

stop what you’re doing, go to YouTube, and look up Louis C.K. Watch his bit called “Why”. It’s pertinent to all people with children, especially 4-year-olds. It’s given my husband and I something to live for.

Bottom line? All 4yo’s are a**holes. I love my daughter, but she is!!!!

warcrygirl
15 years ago

Enjoy the threats while you can, they stop working when they hit age 6 or so. My 7 year old likes to say “but why????” until it drives me nuts only he does it BECAUSE it drives me nuts. Kids are evil like that.

jen
jen
15 years ago

wait until he is a few years old and does need a why, or always asks for one. it’s incredibly annoying and obnoxious! you need to make there are enough things to take away. ;p

danielle
danielle
15 years ago

We’ve made it a rule in our house that our son cannot ask “Why?” He has to ask a more specific question. I don’t know if he knows what that means but it throws him for a loop. When he asks “But why?” I respond with “You’re not allowed to ask questions that way. Think about what you want to ask and try again.” It distracts him enough that we don’t get caught up in the Dance of the Questions.

Something that also works well in our house is the “No Crying” rule. Basically, if you’re crying because you’re upset (vs. being hurt) then you have to go cry in your room. We always tell him it’s ok to be mad/angry/upset but he has to go into his room until he feels better. It’s led to a lot of running into the room while screaming loudly but 15 seconds of screaming is worth avoiding the never-ending cry.

honeybecke
honeybecke
15 years ago

Ah, thank you for this. I am totally into the threatening. I have been going nuts with my 3.5 year old and his (not) listening. I’m impressed Riley springs into action at 1….2…my son stands there waiting until I get to 4 before he’ll oblige my request. DRIVES ME INSANE. Sometimes he smiles. I think we’re going to just get rid of the 1..2..3.. route and go straight to time outs cause that shit just isn’t happening! Time outs are the only thing that works for us, too. He does not like his time outs.

aimee
15 years ago

My son definitely waits for the moment after TWO before getting hit butt in gear, but get it in gear he does. And every time I am shocked that he didn’t call my bluff! What really is driving me crazy, though, is that he’s started asking the other parent when the first parent says no. They’re smart, those little dudes.

Danell
Danell
15 years ago

Am forwarding this to my husband now…so I can be all “See? We’re totally normal!”

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I fucking love Al Swearengen. He’s got his thumb right on those hoopleheads! And just because you brought up Deadwood, I have to shout COCKSUCKERS!!

biscuit
biscuit
15 years ago

When my 14 month is a douche + won’t stop trying to kill herself, I grab a big blanket + put her into the world’s biggest burrito.

She can’t move + usually doesn’t whine because she’s concentrating so hard on how to escape (which she can never do because I’m a pimp swaddler).

;) feel free to borrow my rearing technique.

Swistle
15 years ago

Favorite parts:

1. HAVE YOU TRIED IT?

2. suddenly we’ve got some forward momentum.

3. particularly sub-standard citizen

4. live dangerously and wait until the death-pause

5. wahmbulancing his way down the hall

6. mule-kick to the gut

7. SERIOUSLY?

Nichole
15 years ago

We reach THREE with depressing frequency. And that’s when we either pack it in and go home or haul her up to her room. (“Go to your room” does not work ’round these parts.)

Maria
15 years ago

I’m all about the threatening. I found out fairly quickly that there’s no other course of action for my 3 year old. Instead of a count to 3, I count down from 5. Sure enough, she waits until I get down to 2 before she complies with my request. I started out trying to count down from 3, but found that she doesn’t have enough time to register her decision to give in, and time-outs would be the eventual result.

I think it’s interesting that Riley just goes to his room when you tell him to. My daughter would laugh in my face in response to that order. I literally have to hold her in a vice grip when conducting a time out. She kicks and flails and screams, and I just sit there seeking my happy place, trying not to get hit and asking her in that two minute (feels like 5 hours) segment to calm down and have some quiet time.

My sister-in-law’s kids go into a time out on their own as well. She sends them to “the chair” and to the chair they go. I’m not sure what it is about my child that she flat out refuses to comply with the time out process, but she does eventually calm down.

Trina
Trina
15 years ago

We only allow 2 “why” per thing. When the third one comes out of her mouth we say “Nope”. She starts laughing and moves on usually. If she doesn’t feel like we have answered the why (you know the whining and freaking out) we make her rethink what it is she wants to know and ask the question again. As for the threats, we totally do that too. If I say “Ooooooonnnnnnnneeeeeee!” she will lose her shit. She HATES going to her room and when we get to 3 she knows that is where she will be. The thing with threats is, you totally need to follow through otherwise they wise up and know you really aren’t going to do anything about it.

Sunny
Sunny
15 years ago

Ahhh,love Deadwood!

You can always use another Swearengen quote and threaten to call in the “cat-piss smelling f*ckhead and his holiness, the sheriff” if Riley gets too out of hand.

Valria
15 years ago

Because I said so”

Isn’t this all parents fall back when the going gets tough or to get the tough going?

I remember my sister sniping back at my mom saying “I will NEVER say ‘because I said so’, I will give my kids more respect then that”. The first time I heard my sister utter those words to her daughters I about fell onto the floor with laughter!

We were threatened children and turned out just fine!

Stacey
15 years ago

I am totally making myself a wardrobe of t-shirts that say only “MY VOICE IS THE LAW”.

Keaton
Keaton
15 years ago

My mother (Dad was the lenient one) would always threaten us with (for instance, while shopping), “If you don’t stop (reprehensible action) right now, we will go home without getting anything.” She said the first time she tried that, I kept on misbehaving until she pulled me out of the shopping card, carried me through Target, out to the car, put me in the seat and drove home, where I was sent to my room. Apparently, I never acted up again. She said it took two or three of these with my little brother, but after hauling his screaming butt out of a restaurant (why they were there even they don’t understand) in the same manner (robbing of his French toast in the process), he stopped freaking out. …Mostly. =P

Leah
15 years ago

You are the best blogger out here, no contest.

robyn
15 years ago

Trina is right – DON’T EVER BLUFF. Make the consequence suck for them, but it can’t be something you’re not 100% willing to follow through on. If they call your bluff just one time and you wuss out on the punishment, you’re fucked forever.

I feel your pain. This is the life I’m living right now, too.

penne
15 years ago

Throwing the blankie out the window…good one! I still use “I will take your out to the driveway, back over it with the car, and then go forward over it again…” Works even on the big ‘uns.

Lizzybee
15 years ago

We are totally on the same page!

Christina
15 years ago

We must have missed this stage with our son because he will be four shortly and he has NEVER ever listened to my/our threats. He actually has the audacity to giggle or laugh at me when I threatening him which of course makes me have to take action.

It goes like this – “One… two… (in my head: F*** he is going to make me get to three and then I have to drag 43 lbs of hitting scratching boy to his f-ing room…) THREE (said omniously by me).

Giggle giggle laughter.

Me hauling said child to room for the time out to him screaming, kicking and scratching me. The boy, he has NO fear.

Maybe we will hit this stage during his fourth year ??? (she says weakly, lamely, hopefully, sadly… hanging her head she goes away!)

Korinna
15 years ago

I’m still laughing at biscuit who 1) swaddles her daughter to keep her from being a douche and 2) called herself a “pimp swaddler.”

Heh.

Marie
Marie
15 years ago

My mother, one of the nicest women you’ll ever meet, was always serious about delivering on her threats. As a teenager, I slammed one too many doors on her face and she said, “if that happens again, there will be serious consequences.” Of course I was thinking: “yeah, right.” So I slammed it again.

Next thing I know, she had taken my bedroom door off the hinges and told me I could hang a sheet there if I wanted to, and see how well that slammed.

I looked over the WHOLE EFFING HOUSE for that door (I was going to put it back on again). Never found it. They put the door back on when I went to college.

My mother the disciplinary mastermind…we still talk about it today and she’ll giggle and say, “Well, you shouldn’t have slammed doors!”

Touche.

Laura
15 years ago

Heh, nice 1984 reference :)

Peggasus
Peggasus
15 years ago

Oh, but see, these lessons are going to work for you again! With Teenagers! Just like Journey, hold on to the feeeeel-iiiing -iiing!

Because instead of threatening no ‘Curious George’ or ‘timeout to the room,’ it becomes ‘no xBox’ or ‘cellphone’ or ‘car,’ because, what, do YOU pay for that shit? Should I drop you off at school like you were a FRESHMAN? That car is a privilege, not a right!!

Yes, we do all, eventually become our parents. I am there! But you know what? It sometimes feels awfully good to say that shit.

Melissa
15 years ago

“I don’t really know what happens after “THREE”. It’s like Room 101 in 1984.”

At “THREE” you just give them over to the Count. In my house the Count of Three is a real person and he lives in the land of green peas and doctor visits. That’s why threatening to give my son to the Count of Three is so effective.

Sharon
Sharon
15 years ago

Al Swearengen, I love it!

Krissa
Krissa
15 years ago

Oh man – my parents were the “one warning, including a description of punishment, if you don’t knock that shit off” kind of parents.
The punishment was usually a spanking, but first we had to sit in our room until they weren’t mad (well, I learned the reason when I was older). Then they would come get us, make us tell them what we did, and what the punishment was for that action, and then they would deliver the punishment.

My mom did say, though, that the very first time she deployed the “count to three” thing with her very first child, it happened to be inside a mall. She got through “One…TWO…” and my brother threw himself on the ground and started SCREAMING, “don’t say THREE, mommy! Don’t say THREE!”
They left immediately. She never did figure out exactly what fresh hell he was imagining. :)

nonsoccermom
15 years ago

I don’t know what happens after “three” either. Never had to do it. Still works on my almost-seven-year-old, by the way. Of course, maybe I should stop while I’m ahead, so that I don’t have to find out what comes after three.

I have a feeling that isn’t going to work as well on my youngest. She’s pretty bullheaded already, at 15 months.

Ang
Ang
15 years ago

FYI – if the 14 month old is being a total turd, yes there is timeout – “you must be tired because you’re acting so badly” – and into the crib! Worked for me :)

Ter
Ter
15 years ago

My fiance’s mom did thw whole explain it out thing, and now every time I’m looking for a “just because” answer or give a “just because” answer, I either get a 500-page verbal novel or have to give one myself.

M
M
15 years ago

We use the One, Two… Three method and I find myself getting to three a lot more quick these days with my 3 year old son… I don’t know what happens after 3 either… I am figuring a time out? I don’t know… I try to count slow!

Nicole
15 years ago

God I F’ing LOVE Louis CK! As I was reading your post I was preparing to send you a link to that routine but you beat me to it… Nicely done! “Now shut-up and eat your french fries!”

js
js
15 years ago

Do you have something planned for after that “3”? Because I know “2” used to work with my daughter. But then one day I hit “3” and she said, “Now what?” And I’m all, “FUCK! I don’t know! Go shine my shoes!” And when she ran away, I called my mom and said “What comes after 3?!?!!”

Angella
15 years ago

I’m just going to add a “Ditto” to what both Swistle and Leah said.

Because, well, yeah.

SW
SW
15 years ago

My son is only 20 months, and he responds VERY well to the threats. We began the threats around christmastime with SANTA. (Oh…such bad parents.) We had this Santa doll that sang and did a little dance, and he was deathly afraid of it. So when he would start acting up, I could just ask if he wanted me to turn Santa on, and I would get a tiny little quiet Nooooo. And distraction + fear = better behavior.
Note that we use the same tactic with Tickle Me Elmo.
Bad Mom :)

Brenna
Brenna
15 years ago

You play your cards right, that 1-2-3 shit will continue working for a loooong while. My older kids are 7 and almost 10, and they still move like Flo Jo when they hear that “ONE.”

Oh, and my piece of assvice for the day (but it won’t really work until they get old enough to embarrass): If my kids are ever being complete douchebags in public, where I don’t feel like yelling or threatening, I bend down and, very close to their ears, I whisper:

“If your behavior does not improve this very moment, I will do something so embarrassing that you will instantly melt into a puddle of shame right here on this spot.”

I’ve never had to do anything, and honestly, I’m not sure what I would do if it was needed. This method gets more and more effective the older they get, because we just get more and more embarrassing to be around!

Erin
Erin
15 years ago

Nothing to add – our little one is too young for threats (though I see the day is looming). But I just want to shout out my LOVE for Al Swearengen, and to say that I plan on getting my son to refer to me as “his holiness the sheriff” instead of mommy.

Jessamyn
Jessamyn
15 years ago

My favorite part is the wahmbulancing down the hall, and I will say that one of the funniest (unintentionally so) things that Katie does lately is to wahmbulance herself to her room to punish HERSELF. “You made me feel so bad that now I am going to my room for punishment!” She lays there awhile, kvetching about how she’s being PUNISHED!, and then she quiets down, and then she comes back out. We complain politely, of course, in the hopes that she’ll keep this kind of behavior up!

Maureen
Maureen
15 years ago

I miss Deadwood so very much.

Hey, you are teaching your kids that there are consequences for their actions. I know a few adults who could benefit from that lesson.

Anji
15 years ago

If all four-year-olds are assholes then so are all three-year-olds. Seriously, my son is wonderful and beautiful and the light of my life, but sometimes he really is a goddamned asshole. God that felt good. Writing ‘asshole’ still feels weird though, we write it ‘arse’ here in the UK because that’s how we say it. I’m so glad you can’t hear my accent over the interwebs.

ChelseaLI
ChelseaLI
15 years ago

Oh man, the threats. Could never send them to their room, thats where all the toys are. So instead, they have to sit at the back door. Next to all the stinky shoes.
A good holler of “STINKY SHOES” changes behaviour immediatly.

St
St
15 years ago

Danielle, if you write a book I will buy it. Both of your suggestions are brilliant. Or maybe they’re obvious and I’m just slow. Whatever.

Heather
Heather
15 years ago

just make sure you follow through with every threat!! do not threaten something you can not follow through with. Once who don’t follow through, you can kiss the threat tactic goodbye :)

del
del
15 years ago

One, two… if I say three (insert despicable consequence) will happen. The monsters are now 5 and 7 and it still works. We did have a rather large toy box live on top of the tv cabinet that stored all of the toys that had been confiscated – having them in view was a reminder that asshat behaviour pissed me off and when I am pissed off, you lose toys!

If you want to get all edumacational, think of it as teaching ’cause and effect’ rather than bribes or threats. It works for me, it may only be a name change, but I feel like I am being more parental rather than being a blackmailing bitch.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I love it! You and the threats. My mom tries to be all, “well, sweetheart, we need to do this …..” and I’m like, “Do it or you won’t get to watch spongebob tonight!” My way is much more satisfying. And now with better weather and more light it’s all about NOT being able to play outside. The threat = way less yelling!

Andrea
15 years ago

I love the blankie threat. Awesome.